Follow TV Tropes


Couch Gag / The Simpsons

Go To
The Simpsons is the Trope Namer for the Couch Gag trope, where the original opening sequence had several couch gags. Sometimes they just skip straight to the driveway and do the couch gag, or some other abridged opening (see here for a definitive guide):

  • Bart writes something different in detention each episode.
  • Lisa plays a different solo on her saxophone. The solos are often recycled across several episodes — some were reused more often than the (in)famous "chorus line" couch gag. Since the show's switch to High Definition, some episodes have featured Lisa playing another instrument such as a trumpet or violin (or, in one memorable instance, a theremin) instead. See here for a definitive guide to all Lisa's solos.
    • Notably, a Freeze-Frame Bonus is that Lisa's instrument is always secured to the back of her bike, even in episodes where she's not playing her usual saxophone.
  • The literal 'couch gag', the family gathering on the couch in a (usually) humorous animation. (This is also the only gag that's never cut in syndication, though many of the first episodes to be syndicated saw their original couch gags get replaced with the one where the Simpsons find an identical family already sitting on the couch.)
  • The HDTV opening introduced in season 20 introduced five additional couch gags:
    • Something different flies in front of the Simpsons logo (but it's usually a three-eyed crow).
    • When the head of the Jebediah Springfield statue falls on Ralph's head, he will usually make a muttering noise, but early in the gag's tenure he would actually say something, such as "I see stars!" or "It's dark!"
    • Early on, when Bart ran over him, Barney would also sometimes exclaim something (such as "BART!") instead of belching.
    • A billboard across the street from Springfield Elementary advertises something different each episode.
    • The Simpsons' wall-mounted HDTV falls off the wall in some episodes, and does not in others. (This was only used for the first production line using the HD opening.)
  • A list of the show's couch gags can be found and read here.

Other gags are used occasionally during the ending credits:

  • The Gracie Films Vanity Plate at the end of the episode sometimes undergoes a Logo Joke where it has different sound effects playing besides just the "shh" and the little jingle that plays. Once in a blue moon, the 20th Century Fox plate would also be affected, often as an extension of a Credits Gag.
    • The most regular appearing one is a shriek and minor-key organ variation of the jingle which follows some of the Halloween episodes.
    • A gunshot is inserted here for "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1."
    • "Lady Bouvier's Lover" has Grandpa Simpson saying "Oh, sorry." after rambling for half of the credits.
    • The fourth clip show, "All Singing, All Dancing", has Snake cursing the "Gracie music dude.", having developed a hatred of music over the episode. This hatred includes the credits music and the Gracie Films jingle, with Snake shooting in an attempt to silence the music.
    • The Family Guy episode "The Simpsons Guy" is the only Family Guy episode to feature the Gracie Films logo in its closing credits due to being a Simpsons crossover. Peter Griffin uses this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing along with the jingle: "And now the show is over now."
    • "Dogtown", because of how big a role dogs play in that episode, replaces the shush with a howl.
    • A visual variant: Maggie Simpson in "Playdate with Destiny", being the first Simpsons production to be attached in front of a Disney film (Pixar's Onward), included the distinctive silhouette of Mickey Mouse among the theater patrons in the vanity plate.
  • A list of the Gracie Films gags can be found and read here.

The song or sound played during the credits may vary based on the theme of the preceding episode:

  • Throughout the credits of "Bart Star," Homer, drunk with power from being made Head Coach of the pee-wee football team, 'cuts' several people when their names appear,note  and when the Gracie Films woman does her shush he said "You're cut too, Shushy!"
    • Similarly, the army colonel from "G.I. D'oh" assigns everyone in the credits to "front line infantry!"... except Kiefer Sutherland himself, who is assigned to the Coast Guard.
  • In "The Mansion Family", Homer crying about the people in the credits being rich (except for Richard K. Chung, for which Homer momentarily stops crying to comment, "Oh, he's poor"). At the Gracie Films logo, Homer angrily exclaims, "Don't shush me, you rich bastard!"
  • Sometimes the closing theme is rendered in a different musical motif based on the theme of the episode (such as an ice rink organ after a hockey-themed one), or an instrumental performed by a 'special musical guest' (past bands to interpret the theme during the end credits include NRBQ, Sonic Youth, Brave Combo, Los Lobos, Fall Out Boy and Yo La Tengo).
  • The Halloween specials also generally feature gags within the credits, with puns on the names in the credits ("Matt Groaning" or "Bat Groening" being almost inevitably featured).

For some episodes, the entire opening is changed:

  • When the show entered syndication in 1994, many episodes from the first five seasons used the couch gag from "Rosebud" (where the Simpsons find duplicates of themselves already on the couch). Later syndicated airings of those episodes retained their original couch gags.
  • On the original airing of "Springfield Up", the opening sequence was cut (among other edits) in order to free up time for the premiere of a new trailer for The Simpsons Movie. Subsequent airings use the couch gag from "Ice Cream of Margie (with the Light Blue Hair)" (wherein the family are depicted as cockroaches).
  • For the episode "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs", the first episode of the regular TV series following the release of The Simpsons Movie, almost every element of the opening was changed to reflect events of the movie such as Springfield in ruin, the silo still lashed to the top of Homer's car, and Spider-Pig/Harry Plopper waiting for them on the couch.
  • For the episode "To Surveil with Love", which first aired as part of the "FOX Rocks" line-up where every FOX show for the week was mandated to have a musical element, the opening credits were completely replaced by an animated music video set to "TiK Tok", though the gathering-on-the-couch gag still appears at the end.
  • A live-action version of the sequence, originally made as a promo on British TV network Sky1 (which, perhaps not coincidentally, was also a NewsCorp property), was eventually used as an actual show opening on the season 17 episode "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife."
  • Probably the most infamous of the couch gags was the one for "MoneyBART", storyboarded by subversive and reclusive street artist Banksy. It started with the typical intro (with 'Banksy' written over several billboards and walls, and Bart writing "I must not write on the walls", all over the room) ending with all the Simpsons on the couch. It then panned out to a stereotypical Korean sweatshop animating the show, with small barefoot children washing the cels in biohazardous material, kittens being ground up to stuff Bart Simpson plushies which are then carted off by a starving panda and packed in boxes sealed with the tongue of a dolphin head, and a person making Simpson DVDs by smashing out the center holes on the horn of a dying unicorn chained to a wall. Then the camera pans out to reveal the sweatshop being inside the 20th Century Fox logo, which has a decrepit, prison-esque look, finally panning out to the Simpsons' TV. However, since this was one of the few couch gags by a guest animator where the guest only directed the scene, the animation was produced by the show's regular South Korean animators, who were reportedly not amused.
  • A Simpsons-specific Station Ident for Channel 4 produced for the channel's broadcast of the show from 2007 to 2014, in which Homer repeatedly shocks himself trying to retrieve a six-pack of Duff, was later used in the show itself as the couch gag for "Specs and the City," updated with Super Bowl references and Clumsy Copyright Censorship to make Channel 4's logo less obvious (it's still visible if you have a keen eye). (On that note, Channel 4 produced a new Simpsons-specific ident when they rebranded to their not-showing-the-channel's-logo-on-telly era in 2015, but given the ident's sheer abstraction and lack of narrative elements, it's practically unlikely to be used as a couch gag.)
  • Season 26 opener "Clown in the Dumps" parodies the show's Long Runner status by depicting the show still on the air thousands of years in the future. In the 106th century, the Simpsons have degenerated into "The Sampsans", a group of crudely-drawn mutants (animated and voiced by Don Hertzfeldt) who mainly communicate by endlessly spouting their Catch Phrases.
  • The Futurama crossover episode "Simpsorama" replaces the title sequence (save the gathering-on-the-couch gag, wherein the couch has been replaced by Hedonismbot) with Futurama's own couch gag, an usually irrelevant tagline underneath the show's name. In this episode's case, it's relevant and self-deprecating for both shows: "A show out of ideas teams up with a show out of episodes." The episode's closing credits open with a Special Edition Title of Futurama's opening sequence featuring Homer singing over the theme song, Simpsons cameos and a headless Scruffy cleaning up New New York after the Bart mutants' rampage in place of the Planet Express ship crashing into a TV screen.
  • A fan video recreating the opening in pixel art was eventually licensed for usage as an official show opening on the season 26 episode "My Fare Lady."
  • "Dad Behavior" has a title sequence that is either morbidly hilarious or downright horrifying. It starts off with Barney breaking Bart's skateboard after being tired of Bart constantly hitting him with it in the newer opening sequence. This is unexpected and quite funny, especially when the music stops to emphasize this, but then in the next scene, Homer ends up choking on the radioactive material he's handling until he collapses. After that, during the school band scene, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs as Lisa's dancing out of the room whilst playing the sax leads to her banging her head against the wall and possibly even breaking her neck. But the worst part is when Marge falls asleep in the car and wakes up to find Maggie driving it, and her attempts to take back the wheel results in the car falling into a river, and a few seconds of silence before Marge's lifeless body floats up to the surface. And to top it all off, Bart arrives at home to find no one else there, is worried at first and pulls portraits of the family down to the couch as a memorial but then realizes this means he gets the TV all to himself.
  • If an episode is too short, a very long couch gag will start to play to fill time. Three noticeable examples include one where the family performs a chorus line while the living room turns into a circus,note  one where the camera zooms out of their house and into outer space and keeps going until it zooms out of Homer's head again, and one where Homer is seen evolving from a single-celled organism.
  • "Lisa Gets the Blues" has the intro end after Lisa's segment when she goes out the doors of her music class. When we see the rest of the family later, they're dressed as lumberjacks and are waiting for Lisa to come home, and in place of the couch is a large log; obviously, Homer was going to use his chainsaw to carve it into a couch for the family to sit on.

Sometimes the writers enjoy meta-humor about the blackboard gags:

  • In "Skinner's Sense of Snow," Bart complains that he's written on the board so often that his wrist sounds like a cement mixer (and rotates his wrist to prove his point).
  • In "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays," Bart begs Ms. Krabappel to let him write on the chalkboard after school so he doesn't have to go home and endure Maggie's Roofi tapes. Krabappel tells him to just go home, saying, "We all got tired of that chalkboard years ago."
  • For "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo," the tenth-season finale, Bart writes "I'm so very tired.", a nod to the fact that the producers were burnt out and wanted to end the show at that point.
  • For "Simpsons Tall Tales," the twelfth-season finale, Bart writes "I should not be twenty-one by now," which he would be if an actual ten-year-old boy had played him when the series began.
  • For "Dead Putting Society," Bart writes "I am not a 32 year old woman". Nancy Cartwright, Bart's voice actress, was about that age when the episode was made.
  • For "The Parent Rap," Bart writes "Nobody reads these anymore."
  • For "Bonfire of the Manatees," Bart writes "Does any kid still do this anymore?", as a reference to how Writing Lines has gradually become a Discredited Trope.
  • For "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadaaaass Song," the 100th episode, heavily advertised by Fox, Bart writes "I will not celebrate meaningless milestones."note 
  • In the opening for "Homer the Heretic," Bart writes "I will not defame New Orleans." The previous episode, "A Streetcar Named Marge," had featured a song about how horrible New Orleans was, in a spoof of the song from the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Bart's writing on the board was intended as an apology to those who were offended.
  • "Half-Decent Proposal" had "I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers." Marge's crusade against refined sugar in "Sweets and Sour Marge," just two episodes earlier, sees Chief Wiggum disposing of the town's supply of Butterfingers in a fire, only for the fire to reject them. "Not even the fire wants them," comments Wiggum. This was an inside joke about the show's long history of Simpsons characters (particularly Bart) appearing in Butterfinger ads. This was written around the time the contract with Butterfinger ended; it should come as no surprise that the company did not offer to renew the contract.
  • When Matt Groening announced that Springfield, Oregon was the inspiration for Springfield, that week's episode ("Beware My Cheating Bart") opened with the words "Now entering Oregon" next to the main title, while the chalkboard gag read "The true location of Springfield is in any state but yours."
  • The Simpsons Movie has Bart writing "I will not illegally download this movie."
  • In "Take My Life, Please," the first HD episode, Bart writes "HDTV is worth every cent."
  • In "Barting Over," we see Bart writing "I will not" and then abruptly stopping before destroying the chalkboard with an axe.
  • The 500th episode, "At Long Last Leave," featured Milhouse writing "Bart's earned a day off" on the chalkboard while Bart smugly looked on.
  • "Black-Eyed, Please" has Bart writing on a whiteboard in marker, the phrase being "Sorry I broke the blackboard."
  • In "Trash of the Titans", the 200th episode, where the eponymous Couch Gag would be, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie end up running into Bart's classroom, where they find Bart writing, "I will not mess with the opening credits." (A similar gag was present in "MyPods and Boomsticks", except there, the setting was the living room, and Bart was writing, "I will not bring the chalkboard home.")
  • In the Tonight, Someone Dies episode "Clown in the Dumps", Bart writes "Spoiler alert: Unfortunately, my dad doesn't die."
  • "The Kids Are All Fight" featured Lisa writing on the blackboard, "I will not pay my sister to do my punishment" while Bart watches.
  • In the 25th-season premiere "Homerland", Bart writes, "25 years and they can't come up with a new punishment?"
  • "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs", the first episode after The Simpsons Movie ran in theaters, had Bart writing, "I will not wait 20 years to make another movie."
  • "How Lisa Got Her Marge Back" has Principal Skinner writing "Never lose a bet to Bart Simpson" on the chalkboard while Bart watches.
  • "Monty Burns' Fleeing Circus", the first episode of Season 28, had Bart writing "This arm needs Tommy John surgery."
  • "Havana Wild Weekend", the first episode to air after Donald Trump's 2016 election victory, had Bart write "Being Right Sucks."
  • In "Fears of a Clown" (which aired on April Fools' Day), Bart writes "This is the last episode," only to flip the chalkboard around and reveal the message "April Fool," written in punishment style.
  • "Frink Gets Testy" has Homer writing "Strangling is not an effective parenting tool" on the chalkboard while Bart watches.
    • "Lisa Gets the Blues" has the same gag, only this time Homer is writing "I will not bet with Bart on the Final Four."
    • "Warrin' Priests (Part One)" has Homer writing "How did the boy get me to do this?".
  • In "D'oh Canada", Bart writes "HAW HAW!" and then flips the chalkboard around... to reveal Nelson Bound and Gagged to the other side.
  • "Better Off Ned" has Lisa writing that "Bart is at a Doctor's appointment."
  • "Who Shot Mr Burns" part 1 has "This is not a clue ... or is it?" Part 2 has "I will not complain about the solution when I hear it".
  • "Homer's Adventures Through The Windshield Glass", the 750th episode, has "I will not try to cram 750 characters into the opening credits..." The classroom is packed with 14 characters (including Bart)Which ones? and the rest of the opening sequence contains appearances from 736 more.

    Guest Couch Gags 
Recent episodes now have had couch gags and even the whole opening done by guest animators:

    Other Couch Gags of Note 
This could take a while ... maybe enough for a chorus line!

  • Many chalkboard gags satirize current or meta-related events in real life:
    • "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish": "It's potato, not potatoe."note 
    • "Dead Putting Society": "I am not a 32-year-old woman."note 
    • "Homer the Heretic": "I will not defame New Orleans."note 
    • "Homer's Barbershop Quartet": "I will never win an Emmy."note 
    • "Secrets of a Successful Marriage": "Five days is not too long to wait for a gun."note 
    • "Lisa's Sax": "I no longer want my MTV."note 
    • "The Trouble with Trillions": "I will not demand what I'm worth."note 
    • "Natural Born Kissers": "I was not the inspiration for 'Kramer'."note 
    • "D'oh-in' in the Wind": "No one cares what my definition of 'is' is."note 
    • "Mayored to the Mob": "'The President did it' is not an excuse."note 
    • "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday": "I will not do the Dirty Bird."note 
    • "Little Big Mom": "I will not create art from dung."note 
    • "A Tale of Two Springfields": "I will not plant subliminal messagores."note 
    • "Lisa the Tree Hugger": "I am not the acting President."note 
    • "New Kids on the Blecch": "I will not buy a Presidential pardon."note 
    • "Bye Bye Nerdie": "I will not scare the Vice President."note 
    • "She of Little Faith": "I do not have a cereal named after me."note 
    • "Half-Decent Proposal": "I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers."note 
    • "The Sweetest Apu": "I will never lie about being cancelled again."note 
    • "Homer of Seville": "The Wall Street Journal is better than ever."note 
    • "The Squirt and the Whale": "South Park — we'd stand beside you if we weren't so scared."note 
    • "Judge Me Tender": "End of Lost: It was all the dog's dream. Watch us."note 
    • "500 Keys": "It's Kristen Schaal, not Kristen Schall."note 
    • "Replaceable You": "It's November 6th—how come we're not airing a Halloween show?"note 
    • "Gone Abie Gone": "I will not concede the election till Karl Rove gives me permission."note 
    • "A Test Before Trying": "I will obey Oscar® campaign rules from now on."note 
    • "Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing": "I was not nominated for 'Best Spoken Swear Word'."note 
    • "Four Regrettings and a Funeral": "We'll really miss you Mrs. K."note 
    • "Married to the Blob": "Judas Priest is not death metal."note 
    • "The Burns Cage": "If Villanova doesn't win, we lose everything."note 
    • "Trust but Clarify": "The first episode of the second 600"note 
    • "Havana Wild Weekend": "Being right sucks."note 
    • "Dad Behavior": "I will watch all 600 episodes without sleeping."note 
    • "Fatzcarraldo": "If we're so good at predicting, how come my dad bet on Atlanta?"note 
    • "Girl's in the Band": "I am not a grandmother."note 
    • "The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby": "School online"note  To compensate, the couch gag has a VR-snowboarding Bart write "I must not write on mountain" with his board.
  • The Couch Gag for "A Test Before Trying" was done in the style of a movie trailer, depicting the family running to sit on the couch against all odds.
  • The Couch Gag for "Barthood" is animated by rotoscoping, done in the style of Rotoshop (the software used for Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, two films directed by Richard Linklater, director of Boyhood which "Barthood" is a Whole-Plot Reference to). Homer fears that they'd be "Roto-Rootered" for the entire episode, and Bart complains about feeling sick from it, leading Lisa to revert the show to the standard animation and write the gag off as "a noble experiment that failed".
  • "Some Enchanted Evening" is notable in that it has no Couch Gag. The family rushes in, sits on the couch, and — aside from Bart blinking twice and Marge blinking once — that's it. It was the first episode written and produced, and was meant to be the first to air*. The intent was that the pilot would play this scene straight, then every subsequent episode would play with or subvert it. The only other episode with this "gag" was "The Call of the Simpsons".
    • "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", as the first episode of the series on its own, does not have the intro we all know and love at all. Two other episodes from Season 1, "Bart the General" and "Life in the Fast Lane", go from the title card straight to the start of the episode, while "Bart the Genius" is one of the few episodes where the couch gag continues into the shot of the TV, as Homer squeezes Bart off the couch, sending him flying into the air as he falls past the screen in the next shot.
  • The Couch Gag for "Looking for Mr. Goodbart" (where the couch disappears from underneath the Simpsons while sitting on it) was preceded by a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Simpsons' first appearance on The Tracey Ullman Show with a clip from that first segment, followed by a spoof of the Big Bang Theory theme song.
  • There are two Couch Gags where the show attempts to celebrate a milestone they just reached, only for Lisa to look up information and reveal they're too early. These Couch Gags can be found in the 499th episode "The Daughter Also Rises" (where Moe shows up and throws a party with the rest of cast for reaching 500 episodes, and after he is notified of his mistake, he says that FOX can't afford another party. Surely enough, the 500th episode's couch gag is just a still montage of all previous couch gags.), and the 632nd episode "Fears of a Clown" (where the Simpsons get a spot in the Museum of Television for seemingly beating Gunsmoke's 635 episode record in the most episodes for a scripted primetime TV series).
  • In "My Way or the Highway to Heaven", Homer ends up getting stuck in the Title Sequence for Bob's Burgers (thanks to the usual newer opening sequence featuring Marge knocking him through the wall with her car). The Belchers observe him wandering through the restaurant and engage in some banter among themselves.
  • "Midnight Rx" has some meta-humor. After the family sits on the couch, Lisa looks at the audience and says, "What? Can't we sit on the couch without something happening?" Homer is then impaled by a spear and shouts, "D'oh!"
  • "The Girl on the Bus" features a cameo from the Marvel series. Thanos appears on the couch and uses Maggie's pacifier as the final infinity stone. He then dusts Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa and is joined on the couch by Maggie.